You may have seen the popular ABC TV show, Modern Family, which follows a fictional extended family through life’s ups and downs. It’s a relatable show that addresses many issues life throws our way. Just like the families depicted in the series, it’s crucial to have an estate plan to protect loved ones when someone passes, or becomes unfit to manage their finances. Let’s take a look at some situations that arise in Modern Family episodes and how you can apply the lessons learned to your own situation.
Throughout the Modern Family series, various family members start and own businesses. No matter if it’s a passion project, investment opportunity, or owner-operator business, it should have a plan for the future.
The “traditional” lines in familial relationships can get blurred within multi-generational, blended families. For example, Jay often refers to Manny as his son, even though he’s technically his stepson (the child from Gloria’s previous marriage). Though he loves Manny as if he were his own son, the law doesn’t take these emotions into account when it comes to transferring business interests. Legally, stepchildren have no right to inherit a stepparent’s money or property. In situations like these, documentation should be created if you want any assets to be left to stepchildren, including your business interests.
There are several minors within the Modern Family series that would require guardianship in the event that their parents pass away. While Manny expressed a desire to serve as Joe's guardian if Gloria and Jay pass, it is important for them to formally nominate their preferred guardian in their wills. However, it should be noted that such a nomination is not binding and may be contested by others. To mitigate the risk of potential disputes and ensure Joe's wellbeing, it is advisable for Jay and Gloria to have open and candid discussions with both of their families to prevent any possibility of a guardianship dispute.
Rex and Lily would also require guardianship in the event of the passing of their parents. Without a comprehensive estate plan in place, it is possible that a dispute may arise between the families of Cameron and Mitchell. While Lily has spent a significant portion of her life close to Mitchell's family, later in the show, Lily and Rex move to reside with their parents in Missouri, which is closer to Cameron's family. As a result, Rex may develop a stronger bond with Cameron's family as he grows up, which could potentially lead to conflicts between the Pritchett and Tucker families if guardianship for these two children becomes necessary. To avoid such a scenario, it is imperative for Cameron and Mitchell to establish an appropriate estate plan.
Finally, it is important for Poppy and George to have designated guardians in the event that their parents, Haley and Dylan, die. While the family may not possess significant financial assets or property, it is crucial for them to establish basic plans for their children's care, including the appointment of primary and alternate guardians. When the show ends, Haley and Dylan have moved out of Phil and Claire's residence, but still nearby. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that Farah, Dylan's mother, has become increasingly involved in their lives since the announcement of Haley's pregnancy. It is possible that she may express an interest in assuming the role of guardian for the children in the event of the untimely passing of Haley and Dylan.
As a parent of minor children, it is crucial to consider and plan for the potential guardianship of your children should the unexpected occur. While no one can replace a parent's love and care, it is essential to formally nominate a guardian in a last will and testament or through a separate legal document, as permitted by state laws. While the court ultimately makes the final determination, clearly expressing your wishes can provide peace of mind. Furthermore, discussing potential guardianship with your family members in advance can help prevent disputes and ensure that your wishes are respected upon your passing.
As all married couples know, the question of what will happen in the event of the first spouse's death is important to consider. For couples like Phil and Claire, who have built and accumulated their assets during the course of their marriage, it may be natural to consider everything they own as jointly held. Both partners may wish for all assets to pass to the surviving spouse. However, without proper planning, leaving assets outright to a surviving spouse can leave them vulnerable to creditors and predators.
It is important to consider potential scenarios, such as the possibility of a scam artist exploiting a well-intentioned person like Phil, or a successful woman like Claire remarrying and unintentionally disinheriting her children by leaving all assets to her new spouse. To safeguard assets for the surviving spouse, regardless of whether it is their first or third marriage, a qualified terminable interest trust can be an effective solution. This designation of trust allows the surviving spouse to receive annual income from the trust and withdraw principal for specific purposes like health, support, education, and maintenance. It also grants you the power to choose where any remaining assets are allocated upon the death of your spouse.
In blended families, as seen on Modern Family, there are a variety of options for inheritance distribution. As Jay prepares his estate plan, it is important for him to consider how he wishes to divide his assets among his family members. This includes his spouse, two adult children from a previous marriage, a minor son, and an adult stepson, as well as five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He will need to make decisions regarding the distribution of assets, including the beneficiaries, the amount, and the timing of the distribution. He will need to consider whether it would be more beneficial to provide for his current spouse, Gloria, through a trust during her lifetime, with the remainder going to his other children, Claire, Mitchell, and Joe upon her death — or if his children should receive their portion of the inheritance while Gloria is still alive. Additionally, he will need to decide if he wants to provide for his stepson, Joe, or leave that responsibility to Gloria if she survives him.
When formulating an estate plan, it is crucial to consider the legal requirements for providing for a surviving spouse. In certain jurisdictions, there is a mandated minimum inheritance, known as the elective share, that must be allocated to the surviving spouse. Additionally, in states with community property laws, a surviving spouse may be entitled to a portion of assets acquired during the marriage. While one may assume that their spouse can support themselves without an inheritance, it is essential to have open and thorough discussions about estate planning, and document any agreements to ensure that the surviving spouse's rights and needs are protected. Without proper planning and documentation, a surviving spouse may unhinge the distribution of assets if they have not been taken into consideration within the estate plan, and haven’t waved their minimum inheritance rights.
Phil and Claire will need to evaluate their familial situation and devise a plan to distribute their assets and financial assets among their children and grandchildren. Given the distinct characteristics of their three children, it is important to consider each of their individual needs. For example, Haley, as a mother of two, may require a larger portion of the inheritance to support her children. Phil and Claire may elect to set aside a specific fund for their grandchildren. Alex is very smart and her education or employment opportunities may not require as much financial support. Luke, on the other hand, may benefit from trust money to pursue his business ventures and protect him from impulsive decisions.
An estate plan is a valuable tool for ensuring the protection of assets and financial resources for families of all sizes and backgrounds, not only those depicted in television series. The estate planning attorneys at Anderson, Dorn & Rader are dedicated to collaborating with families to develop a personalized plan that reflects the unique characteristics woven into each one. Reach out to our knowledgeable staff to see how we can assist your modern family with a financial plan for the future.
Life is riddled with unknowns. While you can control certain events like whether you’ll have kids or tie the knot, other milestones are not as easy to predict. Life comes at your fast, and sudden, unexpected events can muddle with estate planning. For this reason, make sure your plan is flexible.
You’re able (and it’s recommended) to update your estate plan as you age. But when you die, the plan is more or less set in stone. To curb some of the unknowns that will inevitably arise, it’s a good idea to incorporate milestones into your estate plan. Milestones trigger predetermined decisions that allow you to exercise your wishes and pass wealth to loved ones after you are gone.
If-then statements are pre-made decisions that are carried out based on conditions you set. They are commonly seen in legal documentation, including estate plans.
The concept of if-then statements is straightforward. If a certain criteria is met, then a given action is put into motion. Take the following for example: “If my spouse and I both pass away before our children are fit to care for themselves, [Relative X] will be nominated as their rightful guardian."
Clauses like these can reserve some of the power you have over otherwise unforeseen circumstances. They also offer more flexibility than more simplistic declarative statements (“I leave the property in The Hamptons to my oldest daughter”, for example).
If-then statements can build upon one another to account for various future scenarios. So you could say, “If my spouse and I both pass away before our children are fit to care for themselves, [Relative X] will be nominated as their rightful guardian. If [Relative X] is unfit to care for our children, [Friend A] will assume the nomination.”
The beauty of conditional actions in your estate plan is that they can take on many forms. Aside from if-then statements, you can also include asset allocations or gifts that are put into motion when certain milestones are reached.
Check out these events that are commonly incorporated to trigger gifts or distributions to loved ones:
These milestones are just the tip of the iceberg, and can be combined or modified. For instance, you may give wedding money to a child while storing the rest of their inheritance within a trust. This ensures that if they get divorced, the assets you pass on won’t fall into the hands of their ex-spouse.
You can also set up your estate plan to allocate more money to an individual if the value of that asset increases over time. Remember that if-then statements can be used to make such allocations flexible. The possibilities are endless.
It's a complicated process to populate your estate plan with if-then statements and other milestones. But the work you do up front will protect you and your loved ones from the unknowns of the future.
The professional estate planners at Anderson, Dorn & Rader will help to put all your wishes in writing. To simplify the proceedings, we can spell out your conditional statements with flow charts and diagrams. These can then be integrated into your estate plan to provide clarity after you’re gone.
Whether you’re looking to update an existing life plan, or start from scratch, our estate planning lawyers can help. Contact Anderson, Dorn & Rader to secure your plans for the future and continue your legacy after you’re gone.
Tune into any major news outlet and you’ll hear about the rise – and tumultuous market behavior – of cryptocurrency. As with any other investment that fluctuates with market activities, there are risks associated with buying and selling. No matter how savvy you may be, if you’re investing in crypto, you need an asset protection plan. The following stories show just that.
Christopher Matthews was a businessman and investor who came from good money on both his mother and father’s sides of the family. He passed away in March 2018, and at that time, his estate was valued at $180 million. A large chunk of that came from a hearty $1.8 million investment in cryptocurrency. He bought his shares through a company we’ll call Wayve.
Matthews death was sudden, and as a result, his estate plan was outdated and didn’t reflect his cryptocurrency trading. After some phone calls with Wayve, it was found that the logins to his crypto accounts were kept on several devices throughout the country, and under other names as well.
Luckily, Wayve worked with Matthews’ lawyers to grant access to these accounts, though this isn’t always the case for account holders with less financial esteem. Even though Matthews’ estate attorneys caught a break with the accessing the accounts, they weren’t as fortunate in distributing the Wayze funds in a timely manner. It was critical that the accounts be liquidated to pay off outstanding debts and other tax obligations.
However, Matthews had a withstanding agreement with Wayze that put a cap on how many cryptocurrency shares could be sold at once. This agreement set back the distribution of affairs because the shares had to be sold over the course of several months. While this allocation process was going on, the remaining money in Matthews’ crypto account values began to plummet (thanks to a large dip in the market). By the end of the allocation process, the accounts lost about two thirds of their value, dropping the total value of the estate to less than half of what it was at the time of Matthews’ death.
Matthews’ surviving benefactors would have been in much better financial shape if he had disclosed his crypto trading activities with the individuals involved in his estate. Essentially, they would have been able to sell off shares sooner and reap the benefits of his investments. Instead, the market dip wiped out a large portion of the investments. Furthermore, an actionable plan should have been in place to avoid relying on the cryptocurrency investments to pay off the outstanding debts in the first place.
Steven Thompson was in tune with the latest trends and became an early Bitcoin investor. He even shared this knowledge with online followers in a 2011 video, which earned him 7,000 Bitcoin. Steve set up a digital hard drive with the company SteelLock to store his Bitcoin – in other words, a digital wallet.
It’s been over a decade since Steven set up his SteelLock, and he’s been busy mining Bitcoin ever since. Unfortunately, he’s forgotten the password that he initially used to configure it, and SteelLock only allows 5 wrong attempts before locking the account. To date, his portfolio amounts to well over $100 million. Unless he can remember the login credentials, he’ll never get to see or sell the money accrued.
The key takeaway is that accounts requiring a password need to be secure, but should also have a backup to enable access in the event of a forgotten password or estate distribution. It’s good practice to establish a plan at the onset of investment activities, because before you know it, a decade of investments will accrue and you may just forget your password when it’s needed most.
Jeff Connely was a Bitcoin miner who died doing what he loved – flying his Cessna in the Alaskan Bush. He was only 26 years old when he passed, and at that time, he owned a sizeable share of Bitcoin. The problem? No one, not even his parents or close friends, knew where he stored it, how much he owned, or how to access it.
The amount he owned would have been a nice influx of money that his loved ones could have managed after his passing. But since he didn’t share the details with his family, the shares he owned, and total amount of funds, went with him in the plane crash. Relatives may be able to estimate your net worth and property assets after your death by sifting through email, bank statements, or physical paperwork at your residence, but this is especially difficult to do with Bitcoin.
It’s not always obvious to loved ones that Bitcoin assets are a serious investment and may be worth an astonishing amount. That’s why a plan needs to be put in place. Let a trustworthy person in your network in on the details of your cryptocurrency activities, and how to access them should the unthinkable happen. Not only that, it’s smart to include details on how you want assets to be used when you’re gone. If you don’t do this, you’re putting your hard-earned investments up to the whims of how much documentation you left behind, and how easily loved ones can access it.
Cryptocurrency is a powerful investment tool that can be leveraged to one’s advantage and build generational wealth. It’s also very new to many of us, so working out a management strategy can be uncharted territory. To be prepared for the unexpected, lean on the knowledge of our estate planning professionals. We can craft a sound cryptocurrency plan to protect you and your loved ones. Whether you’re a seasoned crypto investor, or are considering just diving in, we encourage you to reach out to our advisors to plan for the future.
Death is a delicate subject, but can be made simpler with proper planning. In the best case scenario, all paperwork and assets associated with a passing loved one is prepared with the utmost detail prior to death, allowing friends and relatives to fondly remember the deceased and take time to grieve.
Anderson, Dorn & Rader, and the estate planning business as a whole, aims to simplify the legal processes surrounding death so legacies can be transferred to surviving loved ones in a fair, stress-free manner. To accomplish this, savvy individuals will often take measures to ensure they don’t burden their surviving relatives with undue complications like the probate process.
Several tools are available through qualified attorneys to keep your property and monetary assets out of probate. Among these, establishing co-ownership of bank accounts and home titles, as well as lining up beneficiaries on investment and insurance accounts are great to start with. But a revocable living trust is one of the most favored comprehensive options that an individual can set up to avoid probate. Let’s check it out:
A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that grants a third party, or trustee, the legal permission to hold and manage assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. A living trust is enacted while an individual is still alive, rather than upon death. Arrangements can be made to grant you oversight duties on your own living trust until you become incapable of soundly managing your assets, or pass away. Upon your incapacitation or passing, the successor trustee assumes responsibility over the assets in the trust and manages them on behalf of all involved beneficiaries.
The Probate process involves transferring ownership of all monetary assets and property that haven’t been assigned to beneficiaries, or don’t contain a pay-on-death or transfer-on-death designation upon your passing. Often times with probate, the court gets involved, and the long-winded process to account for the assets ensues.
With a trust, your assets are ready to be transferred to your beneficiaries upon your death, if they haven’t already been transferred to the trust while you’re still alive. This puts probate out of the question, as your assets are all accounted for and can be distributed in a timely manner.
Even better, trusts can incorporate pretty much any category of asset: from real estate, to stock holdings, to bank accounts, to family heirlooms. This keeps your legacy from being administered through the probate court, ensuring everything you worked for ends up in the hands of the individuals you deem as successors. Not only does this eliminate costly court costs, but it keeps your records out of the public’s eye and enables beneficiaries to remember the deceased and carry on the good fortune of the trust without running into road blocks.
The language and investment surrounding the establishment of a trust can be daunting, often prompting individuals to delay the process or put it off entirely. But to plan without a doubt where your assets will end up, and with whom, it’s vital to create a trust. It’s peace of mind for both you and your loved ones when you pass.
Planning the details around your death is sometimes a difficult topic to breach, but can be made simpler with the help of your family and knowledgeable attorneys like Anderson Dorn & Rader. While you are ultimately at the helm when it comes to important decisions, our estate planning group truly cares about maximizing the legacy you will leave to your loved ones. For any questions about how to start the trust formation process, please give us a call or fill out our contact form. We look forward to bringing you and your family peace of mind.
The days are flying by, and before you know it, the New Year will be here. Plan ahead and fine-tune your gift giving before the holiday chaos ensues. It’s possible to make annual, medical, and educational exclusion gifts that aren’t technically considered as such under federal gift tax law.
Annual exclusion gifts are one type that you can give that do not trigger federal gift tax. For the year 2022, the gift tax threshold is $16,000 per person. That is expected to increase to $17,000 in 2023.
With annual exclusion gifts, assets amounting to $16,000 or less that are given to an individual within the calendar year are not considered gifts (for tax purposes at least – the recipients will still be thankful!).
Hypothetically, that means you can gift assets amounting to $16,000 or less to as many individuals you’d like up to December 31st of this year, then follow that gifting criteria again for the same recipients on January 1st, 2023 without having to file them under federal gift tax law.
Some sources may indicate that married couples are able to effectively double the annual exclusion amount ($32,000 per calendar year). Even if a married couple abides by this threshold, in some cases they may still be required to file a gift tax return. We recommend consulting our estate planning services to see if you need to report these “split gifts”, as they’re referred to.
Qualified medical exclusion payments / gifts are another type of transfer that aren’t considered ‘gifts’ under federal tax law.
To take advantage of medical exclusions, one must make a payment directly to a healthcare institution or medical insurance provider. Generally, this exclusion can be applied to any medical expense qualifying for a deduction under federal income tax guidelines.
For instance, you could have given $20,000 to the hospital that your grandchild was treated in for an emergency procedure earlier in the year, then give the same grandchild up to an additional $16,000 amount before December 31st, 2022. You could even go as far as to gift another $16,000 on January 1st, 2023. Even in this extreme example, these gifts would not trigger the federal gift tax threshold, as long as they are accounted for and transferred with the exclusions in mind.
An important note: the medical exclusion gift / payment must be made directly to the medical institution or medical insurance provider, not the individual receiving the medical care or insurance money. Even if the payment is “earmarked”, the patient cannot touch it, or the federal tax law will kick in and consider it a gift.
Gifted assets that meet the criteria of educational exclusions are another type of transfer that aren’t considered ‘gifts’ under federal tax law. This includes qualifying payments made directly to both domestic and foreign institutions.
So hypothetically, you could pay for your grandchild’s emergency procedure (referenced above), pay for their educational tuition amounting to $25,000, give them an additional $16,000 by December 31st, then give them $16,000 on January 1st, 2023. That’d be one thankful grandchild, and you likely wouldn’t trigger any federal gift tax returns.
Remember two things before initiating an educational exclusion gift: First, the payment must be made directly to the educational institution, not to the individual enrolled. Next, the payment can only be put towards tuition. Not supplies, books, dorm payments, or other related educational expenses.
It can be exciting to gift money and property to loved ones. After all, they will carry on your legacy in the future. While it’s tempting to simply transfer it to the recipient’s bank account, consider the guidelines surrounding annual, medical, and educational exclusion gifts to avoid the burden of taxes and maximize your financial picture. For assistance in doing so, contact the experienced Reno estate planning attorneys at Anderson, Dorn & Rader. We are happy to walk you through the process to make it enjoyable for all parties involved.
Trust laws exist not only to safeguard the trust and trustor, but to also set guidelines for trustees to abide by. A trustee has a duty under the law to communicate with beneficiaries and inform them of progress or changes in the trust administration. Some duties of the trustee include giving beneficiaries a copy of trust documents, providing information and timelines of the trust administration, and preparing an annual accounting synopsis of the trust’s income and expenses.
It’s not uncommon for trustees to leave beneficiaries in the dark regarding new trust information. Some trustees are unaware of their duties under the law and believe they can do what they please with the trust. However, this is typically not the case, and if your trustee is unresponsive to your requests for information, you have every right to seek further action. Below are some things for you to consider when wondering how to handle an unresponsive trustee.
How do you try to contact your trustee? Is it through email? Do you try to call? Have you sent a letter through the mail? It could be very possible that your trustee simply isn’t checking in on all of their inboxes all the time. A trustee who simply doesn’t check their email regularly may respond quicker to a phone call or text message. If you’re not getting response through phone or texts, you could try sending them a formal letter.
You should also consider the relationship you and the trustee have with each other. If communication typically escalates into hostility between you two, it’s possible that the trustee may be avoiding you on purpose, even though this goes against their duties to keep all beneficiaries informed. If you cannot speak civilly in person or over the phone, it’s important that you keep all communication in writing. Just be sure to ask your questions very clearly and request information without accusations. If this still doesn’t work and your trustee remains unresponsive, it may be time to seek legal assistance.
An attorney may be involved in trust communication between beneficiaries and trustees in one of two ways. Most trustees have attorneys who represent them. If you’re having a hard time getting a hold of the trustee, try contacting their lawyer instead. If a trustee is oblivious to their duties under law, an attorney can ensure they are made aware of their responsibilities and encourage the trustee to comply. Some trustees may not want to directly communicate with beneficiaries of the trust, in which case their attorney may be the direct point of contact. To get information via a trustee’s attorney, be sure to follow up your initial call or text with the requests you wish to receive and any attempts you have made to contact the trustee.
If you feel a lack of proper representation in a situation like this, you may also seek out your own attorney. They’ll be able to clearly identify your rights as a beneficiary, and will give you the backup you need to enforce them. It’s always a good idea to have an objective intermediary that can assist in getting you the information you are rightfully entitled to.
If you and your attorney are still being met with no response, then your last option is to file a petition with your local court. Before you do this though, you should confirm that your attorney is familiar with trust laws and administration. This can make or break your petition’s success. If the trustee fails to respond to the petition, the court can then remove the trustee from the trust. This might also make the trustee liable for any losses or damages the beneficiaries experienced as a result of their lack of communication and ability to perform their duties. A court petition gives additional resources like subpoenas, depositions, and requests for documents to help you get the information you’re seeking. This should be used as the last method for handling an unresponsive trustee, as it can be costly and emotionally messy.
Trustees can conjure various reasons for being unresponsive, but they are legally obligated to communicate with and provide beneficiaries with certain information regarding the trust. Before you go filing a petition right away, try another method of contacting the trustee. If a phone call isn’t working, try an email or maybe send a letter instead. If this still doesn’t garner any results, involve an attorney. They will help get the ball rolling and will likely encourage the trustee to come forward with their information. Only as a last result should a petition be filed with your local court.
If you have any questions regarding how to contact an unresponsive trustee, be sure to reach out to the reliable and experienced trust attorneys at Anderson, Dorn & Rader. We’re happy to help you get the information from the trust administration that you are entitled to, and are dedicated to providing the highest quality estate planning resources available.
You’re probably familiar with federal taxes, especially if you see the line item deduction on your check each pay period corresponding to ‘federal income tax’. Fewer people are aware of other types of taxes though, such as capital gains taxes, gift taxes, estate taxes, and perhaps the most overlooked: the generation-skipping transfer tax.
The federal generation-skipping transfer tax (GST) comes into effect when an individual transfers property to another individual at least two generations down from them. These transfers usually involve gifts given from grandparents to grandchildren and/or their descendants. However, the GST tax can also be triggered by gifts given to unrelated individuals (not including the individual’s spouse).
The GST tax is effective for gifts transferred both during the grandparents’ lifetimes and after their death through an inheritance. The recipients of gifts that trigger the GST tax are commonly referred to as “skip persons”.
The GST was first introduced by Congress in 1976 to eliminate the ability for wealthy people to skip over their children and transfer assets directly to grandchildren, thus avoiding inheritance taxes completely, and estate taxes for the first generation. The GST abides by the gift and estate tax exemption limits, but is a separate tax in itself that applies in correspondence and in addition to any present gift and estate taxes.
Typically, the GST tax comes into effect when the amount transferred to “skip persons” is greater than $12.06 million (a transferor’s lifetime GST tax exemption amount allotted for 2022). The lifetime exemption amount consists of all gifts made throughout the transferor’s lifetime, as well as transfers made at death in the form of wills or trusts.
For instance, if a grandparent gifts $50,000 to each of their 6 grandchildren in 2022, then $300,000 is counted against their lifetime exemption allotment of $12.06 million. If this gift amount is exceeded (both during life & death), a flat 40 percent tax is applied to the overage.
If the child of a grandparent passes away before them, there is an exception to the GST tax. In the case that assets are transferred to a grandchild whose parent has already passed away, the GST tax is not applied. This would not be considered generation skipping, since the grandchild essentially assumes the position of the parent who passed away, facilitating an adjacent generation transfer.
The GST tax also doesn’t apply to medical care or tuition payments transferred directly to a designated institution. In this case, a grandparent could financially assist with a grandchild’s college tuition or medical bills if they give the money directly to the college or hospital.
The vast majority of us do not have to worry about the GST tax structure due to the high lifetime transfer amount of $12.06 million. Even so, it’s smart to be aware of the GST tax, and that the lifetime transfer amount is set to be adjusted to $5 million (to account for inflation) in the year 2026.
Proposals to lower the exemption amount are regularly introduced to Congress. That means the GST tax lifetime amount could change at a moment’s notice. Knowledge of the GST tax is vital if you or a loved one plans to transfer assets to grandchildren.
Additionally, one should keep in mind that, although married couples are essentially granted double the exemption amount, the exemption rules to the GST tax are ‘use or lose it’. It does not work in the same way as the estate tax, where a spouse who passes away can have their unused amount distributed to the surviving spouse. Any unused GST tax lifetime exemption amount evaporates at the time of the first spouse’s death.
This is not an exhaustive explanation of the generation-skipping transfer tax, and you will likely have questions based on your unique situation. The GST is a challenging subject, and few have the experience navigating the laws surrounding it than Anderson, Dorn, & Rader. Our team can assist with any questions if you plan to transfer a property amount sufficient to trigger the GST tax. The best outcome is one that satisfies your desire to pass wealth down to the next generation, so when you’d like to start the conversation on transferring your assets, contact Anderson, Dorn, & Rader: Reno’s trusted estate-planning team.
According to recent, prominent studies, nearly two thirds of American adults do not have a formal estate plan set up.
For those in the minority who have prepared a living trust, will, or other estate documents, you’re one step ahead. However, just because you’ve established these initial steps doesn’t necessarily mean your estate plan is settled. A thorough estate plan requires continual updating as circumstances change. Even if you have been good about making updates, there are crucial components you may have overlooked. Designating beneficiaries and decision makers for retirement accounts or life insurance policies are a prime example.
Your designated beneficiaries and decision makers are living people, so it’s important to consider what may also happen to them. Even the most well thought out plans can go awry, but proper consideration of all potential scenarios can play a large role in ensuring your wishes stay intact after you’re gone.
Short answer: Yes. A proper estate plan lines up multiple decision makers to carry out your wishes.
You should put careful thought into determining which individuals to appoint as decision makers. They’ll need to be trusted, as important decisions regarding your affairs will come their way. It’s also possible that at some point, they will no longer have the capacity or willingness to carry out the decisions asked of them. This is where backup individuals are important. We recommend having at least two backups for each of the above positions.
People, and your perception of them, can change over time. Some of these changes will impact their capacity to fulfill your last wishes. For instance, the person you initially designate as trustee might turn out to lack knowledge of finances. This raises a red flag, because they’ll be the one handling your money after you’re gone. And if your designated guardian turns out to be not so great with children, you’d want to reconsider who you appoint to take care of your kids.
There doesn’t need to be any suspicious behavior to influence a decision maker change. Often times, something as predictable as age plays a factor. Somebody who you designated as a guardian when they were in their 40’s may not be as fit for the position in their 60’s. On the same token, someone too young to appoint as a guardian now may be ideal in ten or so years.
A backup decision-maker is also necessary to replace one that dies, becomes disabled, or expresses that they no longer wish to take on the responsibility of a designated position.
The main thing you should takeaway is to continually check in on your choices for designated decision makers and name backups when necessary. Alternatives act as a fail-safe to ensure that people you love and trust – not the courts – end up making decisions on your behalf after you’re gone.
Your furry, feathered, and even scaled friends are part of your family. Often, they require more day-to-day attention and care than children. So who will take care of them when you’re no longer around?
Pets are certainly not overlooked in your daily life. Some sleep on the bed, eat like royalty, and get groomed handsomely. But it’s possible that your pets weren’t given much thought in the midst of planning your estate with an attorney. After all, there’s a lot on your mind during the process.
Believe it or not, you can name a legal guardian for your pets after you’re gone. Similar to other designated positions, it’s helpful to have backups lined up if your first guardian choice doesn’t work out. Additionally, you can include information on how they can find a suitable home or shelter to be surrendered to in the case that no one can care for your pet. Aside from addressing who the caretaker will be, it’s beneficial to write out your wishes for how your pet should be cared for. This way, the designated guardian will know all of the animal’s quirks, medications, allergies, and their favorite spot to be rubbed.
A named beneficiary is the individual within your estate plan who will inherit your monetary and property assets when you die. When you pass and your estate is administered, your assets are distributed or managed by your designated beneficiaries. Some instances require a contingent (backup) beneficiary.
If you do not have a contingent beneficiary in these scenarios, your assets may be dealt with according to state law. This often involves enacting the probate process. This lengthy process can delay asset distribution, lead to increased settling costs, and cause family infighting. To avoid these unfavorable outcomes, it’s best to designate one or more contingent beneficiaries for the benefit of everyone.
It’s not fun to think about, but you should be prepared for the unthinkable situation where all the loved ones you designate as beneficiaries pass away before you.
Yes, it’s highly unlikely, but it’s happened before. In this case, having contingent beneficiaries will not suffice because nobody will legally be able to accept the assets in your estate. Depending on your state of residence, if you have no surviving beneficiaries, the government could obtain all your money and property by default.
Even though it’s uncommon, this scenario could afflict those with few living relatives. By adding a family disaster plan or remote contingent beneficiary to your estate documentation, you are able to designate a charity or organization that will receive your assets.
Unexpected life events can often prompt people to take action on their estate plan. At the very least, one should have a basic will, but many people still put off accounting for their assets once they’re gone. Procrastination, a perceived lack of money and property, and concern for the cost and energy required to implement an estate plan can turn some away from the process.
The estate planning process is not as costly or intensive as you may think, especially when hiring a knowledgeable estate sale lawyer. And considering the cost of NOT having an estate plan, it would be selfish to leave your surviving family with the burden. Not to mention, your hard-earned assets could end up in the government’s hands if not prepared adequately. For those who have already taken steps to secure their estate plan, this is a great start. With effective back-ups to weather the unexpected, your life plan will be able to determine who will make decisions, take care of your pets, and inherit your assets after you have deceased.
No matter where you are in the estate planning process, we encourage you to reach out to our real estate lawyers to ensure that everything you worked for in your life goes to the people you love and trust. Contact Anderson, Dorn, and Rader to begin your journey to peace of mind for you and your family’s future.
Generational wealth is often the means by which families retain economic status and live comfortably over time. Family members before you worked throughout their lives to make a living, care for their assets, and pass some of that down to the next generation: you. In the event that you are expecting an inheritance, do you have the proper measures in place to confidently acquire and manage it?
Estate planning plays an integral roll in maximizing an expected inheritance by laying out how it will be used by your family in the future. Expert research analyses predict that the largest transfer of wealth in history will occur over the next several decades. However, with an uncertain economic climate and a trend towards spending over saving, heirs of inheritances often spend, lose, or donate large portions of what they receive. Planning for inherited wealth can help you anticipate and prepare for these instances, while sill protecting the legacy left to you. With an expertly-crafted inheritance plan, you are helping to ensure financial security for you and your family.
Sometimes, our emotions guide our financial decisions, rather than logic. The feelings surrounding the transfer of an inheritance are often unsettling – grief, guilt, anger, confusion. It’s difficult to consider the facts and hard numbers associated with the passing of a loved one. Not to mention, there are lengthy procedures one has to go through to legally confirm the transfer of wealth. It’s important to stay level-headed during the decisions that could affect you and your family’s financial well-being.
An inheritance can be an unexpected stroke of good fortune in a time of loss. Since our brains often classify them as “found” money rather than “earned” money, inheritances don’t tend to be utilized as conservatively as the money we work for. That’s why most inheritances are drained within just five years. A failure to realize the implications of careless spending can get us accustomed to living a lifestyle above our means, only to have it disappear as quickly as it came.
A sudden acquisition of assets and cash can greatly affect you and your family’s life. When handled correctly, you’ll respect the legacy of your loved ones that came before you. When caught unprepared though, you could be burdened by tax payments, careless spending repercussions, and even creditor issues.
Before any pen & paper planning begins, it’s best to have a conversation with your loved ones while they are still living and mentally fit. It can be awkward to talk about what happens to assets after one passes, but go in with the frame of mind that each party will be helping each other. The benefactor will be giving you vital information and consent, and you will be giving them peace of mind that their legacy will live on. By discussing their hopes of how the inheritance will be used after they pass, you’ll get a better understanding which you can use in the planning process.
Using the conversations with loved ones as your guide, it’s crucial to then meet with a financial planner and an estate planning attorney to discuss the amount and types of assets you anticipate inheriting. There are nuances to the processes in which you’ll handle various types of assets. For example, inherited real estate is handled much differently than inherited stocks and bonds. An estate planning attorney can also help you understand the distribution schedule to receive the assets. It could be all at once, in installments, or custom-configured based on a will. Not to mention, a financial planner can help you navigate the taxes associated with your inheritance.
Life happens, and a legacy left to you by a loved one can alter the vision of your financial picture. Anderson, Dorn, & Rader are your trusted team of estate planning lawyers and financial planners in Reno.
If your family is expecting an inheritance, wants to update estate plans, or has questions about the planning process, give our office a call so we can help you maximize your windfall and honor the loved ones that worked hard to pass on their good fortune to you.
Laypeople often think about estate planning as something that is resolved after you execute certain documents. While it is true that you must state your final wishes in writing, you should also consider the estate administration process that will unfold after you are gone.
In the trust declaration, you name a successor trustee to administer the vehicle when the time comes, and your heirs would be the beneficiaries. It is possible to use someone that you know personally to act as the trustee, but it is not a ceremonial role that you bestow upon someone as an honor.
The trustee has a fiduciary duty to the grantor and the beneficiaries. This means that the administrator must always act in the best interests of the parties that are involved.
There are very specific rules that must be followed to administer the trust in accordance with legal standards, and this is one thing to take into consideration. You should also be concerned about the longevity of the trustee and potential real or perceived conflicts of interest.
Depending on the nature of the assets, the trustee may be called upon to handle investments, and this is another level of responsibility that requires considerable expertise. The administrator that you choose must also have the time and the willingness to undertake all of these tasks.
In a real sense, finding the ideal trustee among your immediate contacts is kind of like the search for the mythical unicorn. That’s the bad news, but the good news is that you are making a connection with a professional fiduciary that you can rely on for top-notch trust administration services right now.
AD&R can assume this role after you pass away if you want to be certain that your living trust is administered in accordance with professional standards. This is a major area of specialization for our firm, and we should point out the fact that we can act as the trustee for more complex types of trusts.
The Special Needs Trust is an example of a complex trust. This would be an irrevocable trust, and the beneficiary would not be allowed to touch the principal at all. However, the trustee that you name in the declaration would be empowered to use assets in the trust to make the beneficiary more comfortable in many different ways. As you may imagine, the rules and regulations are complex, so the trustee must understand them thoroughly to preserve benefit eligibility.
You definitely do not want to take any chances when the stakes are this high, and very few people that are not professionals have any knowledge about the way that a special needs trust should be administered. This is where we can enter the picture to provide fiduciary services.
Our doors are open if you would like to consult with our professional fiduciary. You can send us a message to request an appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 775-823-9455.
When you find out all the facts about last wills, you will probably be interested in alternatives. What’s wrong with a will as an asset transfer vehicle? The short answer is that that a will must be admitted to probate, which is a costly, time-consuming legal process. You can also add in a number of other drawbacks that we will cover in a future post.
A revocable living trust would be a better choice for most people. If you are concerned about losing control of assets that you convey into a trust, you can set them aside. You can act as the trustee and the beneficiary while you are living if you create this type of trust, so you call the shots.
In a very real sense, the situation is the same as it would be if you still had all the assets in your own name. Yes, you sign them over to the trust, but you are the trustee with unlimited latitude to do whatever you want to do with the resources. You also have the power to revoke the trust at any time.
For these reasons, a living trust would not be the right choice for people that want to separate themselves from personal possession of the assets for one reason or another. This is done through the utilization of irrevocable trusts of different kinds.
The ultimate point of the trust is to serve as an estate planning device, so you have to account for the events that will take place after you are gone. To this end, you name a successor trustee, and you name your heirs as the successor beneficiaries. Postmortem asset transfers would not be subject to probate, so the drawbacks that we touched upon would be avoided.
Many people would say this is the major benefit, but there are a number of others. When assets have been conveyed into a living trust, the estate administration process is simplified, because the resources are conveniently consolidated.
To elaborate on the consolidation factor, even if you intend to convey assets that will be part of your estate into the trust, you may still have property in your direct possession at the time of your passing. You can account for this through the inclusion of a pour over will. This type of will allows the trust to absorb these assets; they are “poured over” into the living trust.
You can empower a disability trustee to assume the role if you ever become incapacitated, and this is a key feature, because incapacity strikes a very significant percentage of elders. Another benefit is the ability to add a spendthrift clause to protect a beneficiary that may be prone to irresponsible spending.
Like everything else within the realm of estate planning, there is no single answer to questions that people typically ask, because it all depends on the circumstances. When it comes to choosing a living trust trustee, the details make a difference. However, we will provide generalities here.
Legally speaking, the trustee can be any adult that is of sound mind that is willing to assume the role. However, administering a trust is going to require a significant level of financial acumen.
The trustee must have the time that it takes to do the job, and the commitment can be considerable in some cases. You also have to be concerned about conflicts of interest and anticipated longevity. There are certain rules that must be followed under the laws of the state of Nevada, and this is another consideration.
If you don’t know a willing, suitable candidate, or if the administration of your trust is going to be an ongoing, complex task, there is a solution. You could use a corporate trustee like a trust company or the trust section of a bank. When you go this route, a licensed financial professional will be at the helm to manage the trust effectively, and there will be inherent oversight.
We are here to help if you would like to discuss your estate planning goals with a licensed attorney. You can send us a message to request a consultation appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 775-823-9455.
When it comes to estate planning there are several types of tools you can use, depending on your circumstances. One such estate planning tool to protect your estates beneficiaries from future potential family law matters, or other creditor situations, it to leave their inheritance in a Trust Share.
Purpose of Trust Shares
A Trust Share can be created for each beneficiary of your estate after an individual’s death, or the second death of a joint couple. The Trust Share is a legal entity that has its own tax identification number. A Trust Share prevents the trust beneficiary from commingling assets with a spouse directly because the assets are held in Trust Share. A Trust Share prevents an inheritance from being transmuted into a spouse’s community property, which could be lost in a subsequent family law matter. A Trust Share provides for marital harmony after the death of a loved one because it eliminates the conversation between a beneficiary and their spouse on whether they are going to deposit an inheritance into a joint account because the Trust Share doesn’t allow that as an option.
The Trust Share also provides flexibility with trust asset management. Typically, if a beneficiary is responsible with financial assets the creator of the Trust Share will allow them to be their own Trustee and manage the trust funds for their own benefit. Generally, the distribution standard for a Trust Share is for health, education, maintenance, and support. If a beneficiary is not responsible with financial asset a safeguard can be put in place with an Independent Trustee that can be a responsible family member or Professional Trustee. This creates checks and balances, so assets are not wasted with frivolous spending.
Trust Shares also allow you to set a minimum age of when a beneficiary such as a child or grandchild can serve as their own Trustee. We have found with experience that the age of 25 or 30 is much better than 21 given work experience and life experience.
Trust shares can even have a re-write power when it comes to looking at how assets will be passed to grandchildren. You could leave a Trust Share to your child and provide them with a re-write power known as a Limited Power of Appointment to decide how the assets from their Trust Share will be divided at their death among their heirs.
Consult with an Estate Planning Professional
While Estate planning can be complicated, it is essential in protecting yourself and your loved one’s financial future. Give us a call at 775-823-9455 to make a free consultation with an estate planning attorney and see how we can help protect your legacy and your family.
Authored by: Aaron Squires
If you have any children under the age of 18, it is important that you at least have a will, including provisions designating who you would want to be the guardian(s) of your children, should anything happen to you. Legal guardianship provisions for minor children are an important part of estate planning.
The basics of the last will and testament
A last will and testament is basically used to make dispositions of your property at the time of your death. Another purpose of a will is to appoint someone to manage your estate and to appoint someone as guardian of your minor children. Without a will, your property will be distributed to your family following the laws of intestate succession in your state. Your closest relatives usually receive equal shares depending on the law's pre-determined priority system.
Establishing legal guardianship of minors with your will
When one spouse or parent dies, the surviving spouse or parent will automatically be the child's legal guardian unless that person's parental rights have already been terminated. Should both parents die at the same time, or nearly the same time, a guardian named in a will would become responsible for the child's care absent a court's determination that it is not in the child's best interest to have legal guardianship awarded to the person you designated. The presumption under the law is that the person you designate as your desired guardian of your minor children is the most appropriate choice.
Be sure to consider both present and future circumstances
When you are considering who should be named as legal guardian for your children, take into consideration the age, health and location of the potential individuals. You must also recognize that these factors will probably change in the future. For this reason, it is a good idea to select both primary and secondary guardians, should there be anything preventing your primary guardians from serving in that role. These designations should be reviewed at least every 2 years.
Make sure the legal guardians will have everything they need
In order to properly care for your children after you are gone your guardians will need to have access to financial assets, as well. Generally, it is most advantageous to accomplish this through the creation of a revocable living trust that is funded while you are alive. Using this technique your assets avoid the probate process upon your death and the person you designate as the successor trustee under the trust has access to the financial assets and the authority to make distributions to or for the benefit of your minor children without the probate court's involvement. The successor trustee may be the person you designate as your guardian, or it could be someone else if you feel someone other than the guardian is best suited to manage the financial decision-making. This can also be established through a testamentary trust created under a will, but then the assets would need to go through probate and the court will retain ongoing jurisdiction over the trust. The costs associated with administering a testamentary trust are generally much higher than those involved with the administration of a living trust after your death.
What happens if you do not nominate a guardian?
If you do not include guardianship provisions in your will, or establish a trust, the appointment of a legal guardian will be made by the probate court. Although it is the judge's responsibility to ensure the best interests of the child are met, the decision may not coincide with your own wishes. That is why being proactive and creating an estate plan is the best solution for you and your family.
If you have questions regarding legal guardianship, or any other estate planning needs, please contact Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd., either online or by calling us at (775) 823-9455.
In the case In re Estate of Karter Wu (Supreme Court of Queensland, Australia), Mr. Wu created and stored his Last Will and Testament on an iPhone, along with a series of other documents, most of them final farewells.
Wu’s iPhone Will named an executor and successor, set forth how he wished to dispose of his assets at death, dealt with his entire estate, and authorized the executor to deal with his financial affairs. The Will began with the words “This is the Last Will and Testament of Karter Wu.” At the end of the document, Wu typed his name where the testator would normally sign his name, followed by the date and his address. The Australian court admitted the Will to probate.
The law for the execution of a valid Will in Queensland, Australia, is set forth in the Succession Act of 1981. The Act provides the requirements for execution, however, it provides that, if the court is satisfied that a person intended a document to form his Will, then the document shall be considered a Will as long as it purports to state his testamentary intentions. Australian law defines a “document” to include any disc, tape, article, or any materials from which writings are able to be produced or reproduced. Citing a New South Wales, Australia, case that held a Word document stored on a laptop computer to be a document, the court held the electronic record on the iPhone was a document for purposes of the statute. Since the record contained on the iPhone named an executor, authorized the executor to deal with his financial affairs, and provided for the distribution of Wu’s entire estate at a time he was contemplating his imminent death, the court held that it met the requirements of the Succession Act 1981.
California Probate Code § 6110 provides that a Will shall be in writing and signed by the testator, or signed in the testator’s name by some other person in the testator’s presence and at the testator’s direction, or by a conservator pursuant to court order. The Will must have the signatures of two witnesses. If the Will does not meet these requirements, it shall be treated as if it did meet the requirements if the proponent of the Will establishes by clear and convincing evidence that, at the time the testator executed the Will, he or she intended the document to be his or her Will.
Similarly, New Jersey law provides at N.J.S. 3B:3-2 that a document or writing is treated as complying with the normal rules for executing a Will if the proponent of the writing establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the document to constitute the decedent’s Will.
The California and New Jersey statutes are based on § 2-503 of the Uniform Probate Code. The impetus for the enactment of this section of the Uniform Probate Code may have been a case where an attorney attempted to probate the unsigned draft of a Will of a decedent who was killed in the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001.
California Probate Code § 6130 further provides: “a writing in existence when a Will is executed may be incorporated by reference if the language of the Will manifests this intent and describes the writing sufficiently to permit its identification. California Probate Code § 6131 states: “a Will may dispose of property by reference to acts and events that have significance apart from their effect upon the dispositions made by the Will, whether the acts or events occur before or after the execution of the Will or before or after the testator’s death. . . .”
Recently, a Will was admitted to probate in California where the Will referred to the disposition of assets in accordance with recordings that the decedent had left, both prior to the execution of the Will and would leave after the execution of the Will, on his answering machine at his residence. The judge found that the recordings constituted a writing within the meaning of the California Probate Code and were to be incorporated by reference and were to be considered to be acts of independent significance. Therefore, the recordings were given effect with regard to the disposition of property as governed by the Will.
While the existence of these statutes in many states have broadened what may be admitted as a Will for probate, it is not a good idea to rely on these statutes to assure that one’s Will will be accepted by the local probate court. Having a Will drafted by an attorney experienced in estate planning and drafting is always the best course of action to assure there will be no problems with the disposition of one’s estate at death.
Furthermore, there are many reasons why one may not wish to subject his or her estate to probate upon death, including potential additional costs, delays in administration, and the publicity of both the extent of the decedent’s wealth and the identification of the beneficiaries of the estate. There are many ways to avoid a probate administration at death, including the execution and funding of a revocable or irrevocable trust during the individual’s lifetime.
For more information about the ways to avoid probate, contact our law office. Our office focuses on estate planning, probate administration, and methods to avoid probate for those who have a desire to do so. We work with clients of all wealth levels and ages. As a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, our firm is kept up-to-date with information regarding estate planning and estate and trust administration strategies. You can get more information about scheduling a complimentary estate planning appointment and our planning and administration services by calling Gerald M. Dorn, Esq. at (775) 823-9455